District Five Salt Lake City Council Nominee Bill Davis vs. Erin Mendenhall

Four seats in the Salt Lake City Council are up this election season. Read about the important local issues which will determine the future growth and direction of Salt Lake City. Candidate Bill Davis talks with Utah Stories.


What differentiates you from your opponent?

Experience & qualifications – which is why my slogans either say EXPERIENCE MATTERS or SMART, EXPERIENCED, QUALIFIED.

I really do have small business experience – since 1986. Have had numerous businesses. 5, 6 or 7 depending on how you count them and my memory. Have followed the path of the quintessential entrepreneur by leaping off the cliff and almost going broke a time or two. As my website hints at, I currently have three as follows:

Salt Lake City Council Nominee Bill Davis
Salt Lake City Council Nominee Bill Davis

GBR Utah – a specialty auto parts parts company that has been around since 1992. Used to be called Great Basin Rovers until Land Rover corporate decided to go after every independent Land Rover business in North America that was using the name Rover. I could have easily won the lawsuit but it would have cost $25,000 and it wasn’t worth it.

GBR Service – a specialty auto service business since 2008.  The specialty is Land Rover – my hobby turned into a job, turned into a nightmare as I describe it.

GBR Enterprises – small real estate company. I do what I describe as recycle old buildings. Mainly commercial but a few residential ones. I like to buy older but structurally sound buildings that have some physical deterioration and functional obsolescence and rehab them. Been a bit slow since the economy ran off the cliff and I have gone from a thriving small businessperson to a surviving small business person.

I really do have 20 years of Community Council leadership (not just participation). I describe how I got involved as I somehow attended a Rio Grande Community Council meeting (the details such as what motivated me to go, are lost to history) and I loved it. I describe it as “democracy on its most basic level”. This was 1995 and you might say that this isn’t 20 years since this is only 2013 but I  actually served on more than one Community Councils concurrently at times. Split out as follows:

Chair – Rio Grande Community Council. It was located downtown and was formed to represent the City’s social service agencies. I was living at Art Space at the time.

Founder & Chair – Downtown Community Council

Ballpart Community Council – Chair and name changer. It at one point was named Peoples Freeway CC

Board – Liberty Wells CC resigned to run for City Council

Was also a trustee for the Salt Lake Community Network an umbrella organization for the City’s Community Councils. Resigned to run for City Council

I’m still the Chair of the Master Plan Amendment Committee of the Ballpark CC. The object of this committee is to have the residential core of this cool little pocket neighborhood back to SR1 i.e. single family residential. It is all RMF 35 & 45 at present. Meaning a developer could come in and scape the houses off the face of the earth and build poorly designed projects like Fletcher Court which is located at about 1400 SW Temple.

I did serve on the City’s Historic Landmarks Commission for 4 years. This was during the time of the Yalecrest local historic designation debate. Sitting on the dais in the City Council chambers in a room full of energetic people and doing the right thing in spite of it not being a popular decision is good experience for being a City Council person!

I did start what is called the British Field Day, 23 years ago. It is an all British car & motorcycle show/rally. It was originally a fundraiser for Hildegards Pantry (an emergency food pantry) located at St Mark Cathedral located downtown. It was held on their green space behind the Cathedral. I worked there as the property manager at the time. It has been very successful especially financially so we started a tradition of donating the excess to non-profits and charitable organizations after we moved the event to Pioneer Park and currently Liberty Park. The organization has donated ~ $100,000 to local groups since then.

What is your business and education background?

As noted above, I have been a small business person for 25 years or so. Prior to self employment and after I graduated from college, I worked for 7 1/2 years as a banker with a local bank that is no longer around (Valley Bank).

I started college at a Community College in Pittsburgh where I grew up. I graduated with two year Associated degree in Biology. When I moved to SLC in May of 1974, I transferred to the U of U and received a degree in Finance in June of 1976. I went back for an additional year and received another degree in Economics in August 1977.

A little known fact about me is that at one point in my life (early 1990’s) I considered becoming an Episcopal priest and took classes in theology from the University of the South for 2 years. I decided that this was not to be my calling and moved on.

It is important for SLC to speak out and show leadership on the air quality issue because we do have a louder voice and it sometimes frames the arguments and narratives if it makes sane, rational & credible arguments.

What can you do to aid local businesses and the community to help in retaining quality of life as the population along the Wasatch Front will double in the next twenty years?

This may sound counter intuitive but make sure that a significant amount of that growth occurs in the City itself. The City has two major fundamental problems. First, 54% of the property is non-taxable because it is owned by federal, State and the City itself. This means that 46% of the property pays property taxes which is a disproportionate burden on the people that live in the City. The second issue is that we have a 100% commuter rate (one of the highest in the nation), which means that the City doubles in population every working day as people commute into the City to work. This is the fundamental issue with our infrastructure. A fixed population has to support this too. A third interesting fact is that the City had a larger population in 1960 than it does now. I propose that the City set a goal of adding 50,000 new residents in the next 10 years. This would increase the population of the City by 20%. it would provide a substantial increase in tax receipts which would allow us to pay for the amenities we need as a City such as an effective mass transit system and we would be able to do it without raising taxes because we will have a bigger pie. The vast bulk of this population growth will be high density, transit oriented residential growth.

A related challenge will be to protect our distinct single family neighborhoods. SLC is blessed in still having an intact urban core and it is critically important that we preserve it.

What do you believe are the most important issues that Mayor Becker and the City Council faced last year?

The budget i.e. trying to maintain the level of services with less funding. The funding level has stabilized after dropping for several years starting in 2009 but it will be several years before we are back up to the level of funding in 2007.

How do you think the City Council can improve on the work they are doing?

Elect experienced representatives. This is a seminal election. 40% of the City Council will be new and this hasn’t happened for a long time. Strong independent experienced leadership will be important.

I also think the City needs to explain things better such as the street lighting fee. The abysmal explanation created a lot of un-needed controversy.

Continuing to work to improve community outreach, participation and communication. Would help mitigate issues such as the Sugarhouse Streetcar.

What are a few issues that the average Sugar House or Liberty Wells citizen should know about and pay attention to for the coming year?

Sugarhouse in not in District 5, it is in 7, although they are neighbors :-). I believe that neighborhood preservation will be important going forward. As an example, if the Sugarhouse streetcar going north gets funding, it will go thru the ELPCO (East Liberty Park Community Organization). There will be intense pressure to up-zone a 6 block swath of land (3 blocks on each side of the tracks) to promote commercial and high density residential development. This is not the spot for high density residential development I was referring to earlier. There are much better places for it! The neighborhood has made it abundantly clear that it wants to preserve the present character of the neighborhood. This neighborhood should consider protecting itself by considering a Character Conservation District or a Local Historic Designation zoning overlay.

Everyone thinks that the Sugarhouse streetcar will have a negative impact on Sugarhouse. Sugarhouse is already a commercial area and the reality is that it will not have much impact on it compared to the impact it will have on ELPCO.

To find out more, please visit:

Join our newsletter.
Stay informed.

Related Articles